United States sells over a million barrels of seized Iranian fuel

The United States sold more than a million barrels of seized Iranian fuel under its sanctions programme last year, an official from the Department of Justice said, even as another ship with Iranian crude sails to a US port.

Washington under the Trump presidency toughened sanctions against Tehran. Donald Trump used civil forfeiture procedures to seize some 1.2 million barrels of gasoline it said were being sent from Iran to Venezuela aboard four tankers.

The shipments, the largest seizure by Washington of Iranian fuel to date, were transferred to other vessels and sent to the US, where the fuel was meant to be sold and the proceeds distributed to a fund for US victims of “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi told Reuters news agency this week that the sale of the cargoes had been completed, adding that the government was “still working out the final expenses”.

“The petroleum has been seized, and an interlocutory sale has preserved the cash value of the petroleum, which is now held by the US Marshals Service,” he said. The value of the gasoline was not known but was likely worth tens of millions of dollars based on benchmark European gasoline prices.

Raimondi said the department still needs the US District Court in Washington, DC to enter an order of forfeiture “and then the funds will be transferred to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund”.

The fund was established by the US government in 2015 to award compensation to individuals who suffered harm resulting from the acts of those designated by the US as “state sponsors of terrorism”.

Last week, the US filed a lawsuit to seize another cargo, this one of crude oil it says came from Iran.

That cargo, loaded onto the Liberian-flagged Achilleas tanker, was last reported in Caribbean waters. The US Gulf port of Galveston, Texas was its destination with a scheduled arrival on February 15, Refinitiv ship tracking data showed.